Attitude is EVERYTHING!
Learning math (and anything else) is presentation and attitude... The right presentation (by YOU) can change a student's attitude... Then, the learning begins!
Learning how to motivate my students and, almost more importantly, training them to have positive attitudes has been a big key to my Survivor Algebra success. It's made me a much happier teacher too!
There are two books you really need to read:
Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Enjoy Helping Others Excel
and The Power of Optimism -- both by Alan Loy McGinnis
These books will guide you through all the details to convert yourself into a champion motivator. I have seen a huge change in my students -- and in me since I've read them.
I really view myself more as a motivational speaker now, than as a math teacher. I used to have a very typical success rate for a community college math teacher -- a very sad 40%. Yes, that's typical... and it's also completely unacceptable! Since I made these changes, I've enjoyed a very steady 75-80% success rate... for years! My students have worked very hard to earn that success... I've just encouraged them to do so.
Before I made the change, on the first day of school, I'd always go through my class syllabus (which is just a bunch of rules about homework and absences) - blah blah blah... And, then, I'd give a 30 minute dissertation on the perils of cheating. In short, I was starting the semester by talking about a bunch of negative things. Start out negative... and stay negative!
Now, I don't talk about either of these things. Instead, I start the semester on a very positive note -- I give a speech on success! Check out the next two sections for details.
(I put the syllabus online and just tell them to go read it themselves. I have a brief discussion about cheating the day before the first challenge.)